April 8, 2013
When Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed arrives in London at the end of this month, it will be his first state visit to the United Kingdom as President of the United Arab Emirates, but not his first invitation to meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Nearly a decade ago, Sheikh Khalifa was congratulating Elizabeth II at the royal residence as she marked 50 years on the throne, but on that occasion as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Khalifa began his visit on June 4, 2003, hosting a reception at the Lanesborough Hotel with guests that included Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, and was himself the guest of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, at his residence in Sunninghill Park. The tour, which ended on June 6, also saw talks with Tony Blair, then the British prime minister. Sheikh Khalifa’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, although still President of the UAE, was in poor health at the time and near the end of his rule.
In 1969, Sheikh Zayed had visited London and met the Queen, although as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, then bound to London by treaties, he was not given the status of a full state visit.
It was another 10 years before Sheikh Zayed made the nation’s first state visit to London in 1989, making Sheikh Khalifa’s the second such occasion.
* James Langton